Socio Economic class differences in pet ownership

There have been several socio-economic trends when it comes to pet ownership in the US. Early on in the 1800s the upper class tended to have pets that reflected trends in pet ownership in Europe. For example importing dogs like bull dogs, spaniels, and English pointers (Meacham). Upper class people also were more likely to keep birds or squirrels as pets as well (Meacham). People of lower class tended to have dogs with a mix of ancestry called “mungril” these days known as mongrel or cats (Meacham). In other words a mix of the defined dog breeds (Meacham). There also appears to have been a differentiation between the uses for the dogs. Upper class members would display their pets and spend much time on the pets’ appearance (Meacham). Meacham also points out that there was a tendency to adorn their pets with luxurious collars, chains, or other items. In the lower class there was less concern about appearance and more concern with the animal earning its keep. For example in the article “Petropolis” there is a painting depicting what they call a “heroic working mongrel, a turnspit dog” (Olson, Hulser 138). They explain “A turnspit dog, a working animal, trots a treadmill to turn a roast or churn butter” (Olson, Hulser 138). More recently while the signature difference is they type of pet chosen there are other differences. The differences in class can be seen in how the animals are treated. For example in upper class society in the US you will find things like pet day care, pet nannies, pet play dates, exquisite beds leashes or treats (Olson, Hulser). The list doesn’t stop there though there is a pet taxi which can ferry your pet from home to each event they should be at, including international travel (Olson, Hulser). There is also “the pet breath ameliorator (2001 patent), pet cemeteries, pet acupuncturists … swimming lessons as well as hydro-therapy after injuries or operations and field-trips for lonely dogs.” (Olson, Hulser). Lower classes are less likely to have access to such extravagances.

 

Olson, Roberta J. M., Hulser, Kathleen. “Petropolis: a social history of urban animal companions.” Visual Studies. 18.2 (Oct 2003) 133-143.

Meacham, Sarah Hand. “Pets, Status, and Slavery in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake” Journal of Southern History. 77.3 (Aug 2011) 521-554.

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